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Hitting The Spot – MCR 8.17.16

I keep an obscure volume on the reference book shelf next to my desk called Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide and Directory, published in 1999 by David Goodwin. It’s a time capsule of where our music was at the end of the century and the dawn of the Americana chart, so it’s fun to browse. Instead of asking ‘where are they now’ it’s an exercise in ‘where were they then?’ And there on page 56 is Tim Carroll, categorized as “Rig Rock” and “Insurgent Country” and introduced as a former member of New York band The Blue Chieftains. We learn that by then some of his most indelible songs (“A Good Cry” “After The Hurricane” “Girl That’s Hip”) were already written and being admired and covered by others. Pretty cool. Are YOU in an encyclopedia?

Tim joins us for a set this week on a bill that touches on bluegrass with Blue Highway, rockin’ soul music with Matt Andersen and Southern indie rock with The Pollies. He does so as one of the seasoned veterans of roots ‘n’ roll and a continuing force in Nashville’s club scene. That’s because he’s picked his club and makes a scene every Friday evening at The Five Spot on the East Side. The Tennessean’s Juli Thanki recently told Tim Carroll’s story and clarified why such a talented and well-traveled rocker can be found at the same joint at the same time week after week.

He’s performed everywhere from the “Grand Ole Opry” stage to dive bars, but when he signed on for the 5 Spot’s Friday time slot, Carroll said that most of his friends thought he was crazy to begin an open-ended residency: “Everybody was like, ‘You don’t want to play too much. You have to make it a big event when you play so that people will come.’ I said, ‘No, I want to play a lot.’ My band in New York played five nights a week. When I moved here, I’d go to open mics and things like that. Some people think that’s small time, but to me, that’s playing, and it’s great.”

That’s the approach of a true artist and a reliable East Nashville neighbor. Tim’s a part of the fabric of Nashville – a player in its modern story. And now he’s readied a new album called “It’s All Politics” which will be for sale at the show. His catalog of great albums such as If I Could and The Devil Is A Busy Man are up fresh on Spotify as if just reissued. I’ll ask about that in the chat room. Joining him on stage will be very recent Roots artist and full time partner Luella.

In other news, Blue Highway returns to the Roots stage, rolling into its third decade together, as I described in detail when the band debuted at Roots in April 2015. Since then they’ve made the one personnel change in the group’s history – letting dobro master Rob Ickes move on to new challenges and bringing in young Gaven Largent, alum of Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. They’ve also nursed bass playing singer Wayne Taylor through heart surgery so we’ll be glad to see him back in the swing. And yes, there’s new music. It’s an album called Original Tradition, the 13th of this distinguished band’s run. How distinguished? A reader survey over at Bluegrass Today named this East Tennessee group “Favorite Bluegrass Band of All Time.” I can’t add much to that.

When Matt Andersen visited Roots in May 2014 he commanded the stage, grabbed everyone’s attention and frankly blew us away with naught but his voice and acoustic guitar. That voice is a big and broad shouldered as he is, and with it, he’s become an international touring blues and soul man who’s cavorted on stages with the likes of Tedeschi Trucks, Buddy Guy and Gregg Allman. Matt’s a Canadian native, the first to win the Memphis-based International Blues Challenge. He’s got a JUNO Award nomination and tons of respect out on the circuit. His current LP is Honest Man, which is saturated with analog-feeling horns and vintage guitars.

Rounding out the night is a band I’m extremely excited to see based on the buzz, which has rippled out from their home base of Florence, AL. Fellow Alabamian Brittany Howard has cited The Pollies as awesome. Of the artfully produced but still honest and rocking sound they achieve on current album Not Here, Glide Magazine say the band bring “their own Southern sensibility to a sound that is grandiose and enchanting in a way that bleeds originality. Their sound is not just catchy, but it also lingers with you in the way any great band should.” Some are comparing them to early Wilco and others to Gram Parsons. We are, as always, ready to discover something smart and new.

See you Wednesday evening at 7. Whatever your tastes, we’ll have something here that will hit the spot.

Craig H.

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